The Unsigned Guide Spotlight: February
Blog by Stef Loukes under Artist Managers, Creative & Branding, Finance, Law & Music Business, Live, Media, Music Publishing, Music Training & Careers, Record Labels, Recording & Production, Selling & Distributing Your Music
TaliaBle - ‘Muzzled Butterfly’
London rapper TaliaBle has a lot to say and expresses herself through a wide variety of forms - design, performance, video and, especially fortunate for us, music.
‘Muzzled Butterfly’ is fizzing with vitality and swagger, and with an accompanying video that is electrifying and inventive (and easily as imaginative and fresh than anything you’d expect from Missy Elliott!), you’ll be hooked on your first listen/watch. But fun aside, there is a message in TaliaBle’s music, and a legitimate reason why she has coined the phrase ‘Dystopian Rap’ in order to describe her sound.
TaliaBle tells us more about how ‘Muzzled Butterfly’ came to life: “The track came to fruition during the BLM protests which brazed the streets of London last summer 2020. At the time I was reading a book called ‘All About Love’ by Bell Hooks which had just influenced a t-shirt collection I designed called ‘Our People’ (sold via. Keephush merch store), which honoured and featured 17 rising creatives of colour in hope to encourage others to use their art as a means of therapy and protest during a time of hardship, where there was a massive halt on any artistic expression. ‘Muzzled Butterfly’ was a further extension of this t-shirt collection, yet in a video, graphic and music form. I was still commenting on what was happening at the time; the deeply ingrained and complexity of systemic racism which speakers at the protests opened my eyes even wider to, influenced a lot of my word play. A quote which really stuck with me from the protests was ‘We wear these COVID face masks for two minutes and complain that we can’t breath, imagine how George Floyd felt with a knee on his neck for eight’.”
But TaliaBle does not serve her message, opinions and feelings up on a plate; you’ll need to put a little work into deciphering her rhymes. Stimulating deep thought from her listeners, as well as providing entertainment, are equally vital to her: “I was inspired to address injustices yet through riddles and unusual comparisons where one will need to dissect the poetry to understand it in it’s full form: comparing racism to ‘kits of evil’ and victims of racism as ‘slugs stashed in beetles’. Other lyrics were offering a space of encouragement to focus on love within communities to battle injustices and build safe spaces, as well as owning your home town. Especially like myself coming from Tottenham; it tends to be an area looked down upon.”
If you hadn’t already gathered TaliaBle likes to be original and innovative, and her live performances are no different. Back in December 2019, she performed and creatively directed a show for Tate Late which featured character-based performers in handmade costumes who would enter the stage and illustrate lines in the songs. The characters in CGI worlds were projected onto the ceiling of the room in Tate, and a mask making workshop also made up part of the event. Wow!
With live performance still a little way off, we can look forward to an album which TaliaBle is currently working on with producer and multi-instrumentalist Karl Brinaj. Due in April/May, more single releases and videos will be coming in the meantime. And with weekly rehearsals already taking place, we know that as soon as the gig venue doors open TaliaBle is going to have something mind-blowing ready to show us all.
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Ghost Arcadia - ‘Glory’
If you like to devour fiery, anthemic rock with splashes of pop punk, then pull up a chair at Ghost Arcadia’s table. Their single ‘Glory’ serves up spirited, driven alternative fare, and you can expect more of the same kinetic forces from their current EP ‘Libero’ which dropped last year.
Frontman Reu shares more about the story behind the track; “Glory is about that person whose aura you can’t help but get swept up in, even if it’s just for a few seconds of time. Someone who makes time fly for you, whether that be a lover, friend, or relative. We wanted it to be able to transcend people’s expectations of what a love song could be. It needed to be ‘anthemic’ but still rooted in a catchy melodic rock groove. Something you could blast out of your car stereo or dance senselessly around your room to. An all round crowd pleaser!”
Mission accomplished. 100%.
After reveling in the success of their launch party for ‘Libero’ in February 2020, clearly the rest of the year then proved to be quite an anti-climax; “We were making a few exciting connections before the first lockdown which have sadly been put on hold due to the continuing limitations of the pandemic, but we remain both positive and productive as we push on.”
Not ones to be deterred, Ghost Arcadia have spent this downtime rigorously experimenting with their sound, exploring their identity as a band and the message they want to deliver as artists. Oh yeah, and laying down loads of new demos! So rest assured that a new single should be on its way soon.
And if you’re chomping at the bit to see Ghost Arcadia live (let’s face it, who isn’t?!), then here’s a date for your diary. All being well on the Covid front, the band will be supporting A Few Too Many on 19th June at The Fiddlers Elbow in Camden.
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HUSK - ‘Feeling Heat’
Here to inject some much needed colourful pop delight into these bleak times is queer femme, enby transboy HUSK. As a teen he soaked up the feelgood melodies of Madonna and Girls Aloud, and over the years has added a dash of Blondie, HAIM, Erasure, Christine & The Queens, plus some sprinklings of Eurythmics and Pet Shop Boys to concoct his very own infectious and mouth-watering cocktail, that is guaranteed to loosen you up and get you on the dancefloor.
More than happy to be labelled ‘gay disco synthpop’, HUSK declares "even if that means some people pigeon hole it as 'gay music', it's queer because I'm queer, and proud of that!" He’s always first in the line to represent his LGBT+ family, hosting a LGBT+ History month collaboration this February with Reform Radio where he is taking on some iconic covers (first up was Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’) that will be shared on Reform’s social media every Monday.
But back to our chosen Spotlight track ‘Feeling Heat’ and here is HUSK to tell us more about what inspired the song; “I wrote this track when I was really feeling the pressure or ‘feeling the heat’. Everyone around me seemed to be the same, working hard and getting stressed. For me, the best way to fix that is to dance it off. ‘Feeling Heat’ is a song just for that! I’m really looking forward to getting out on stage again and playing it, and to having a really good time - I think we could all use that right now.”
And we can’t wait to see HUSK back on stage too. He wowed the crowds of 15,000 at Hull Pride, has co-headlined at the legendary Band on the Wall, as well as playing Manchester International Festival 2019. His music has pricked up ears at BBC 6Music and Gaydio. All fantastic achievements, but the most significant accomplishment of all has to be the real life interactions that HUSK receives.
“When LGBT+ people or those who don’t fit society’s ‘default’ come and tell me how my visibility as a queer trans musician on stage has inspired them, and how their night of dancing is exactly what they needed; that’s the reason I make music, and it’s the thing that keeps me going when it’s tough! Music is a universal language, it doesn’t care if you’re gay, straight, trans, cis - you like what you like!”
HUSK has two new releases on the way in 2021, including one collaboration with a new artist, and another track he’s created with producers Sugar House Music, influenced by listening to Honey Dijon, Prince, and watching Pose a lot during lockdown. We absolutely cannot wait to hear that! And in the meantime, grab a copy of his limited edition cassette release ‘HUSK On Tape’.
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Apteekii - ‘What’s Real’
Apteekii want you to think of their music as a comforting balm, in fact the word ‘Apteekii’ is Finnish for ‘pharmacy’. The trio formed during summer 2020 and with such a strange year sparking their musical collaboration, there’s no doubt that making music must have also been a healing process for the band themselves, as David explains: “I usually spend my time as a touring technician for Clean Bandit, Freya Ridings, Lana Del Rey and others, which obviously came to a complete halt in March last year. The first few weeks after that was horrific, I was really struggling and at a complete loss of what to do with myself. Eventually I set a challenge of writing one little musical idea a day just as something to do and try to keep my brain busy with.”
‘What’s Real’ is their debut single, and they also have their first EP in the bag, albeit recorded remotely. The song is inspired by the prevalence of ‘fake news’ and the constant stream of overwhelming information on social media. Whilst ‘What’s Real’ summons woeful and melancholic feelings in parts, it also has contrasting moments of hope and joy - a delicate balancing act. With lots of layered, glitchy sounds resonating just below the surface of the melody line to keep things interesting.
Apteekii have already been named as a top pick for 2021 by BBC Introducing in Cambridgeshire, so we’re not the only ones who have earmarked the three-piece as ones to watch. Their full EP will drop in April, and the band are busy recording remote lockdown videos for their next song which will be released in a few weeks. Keep it locked!
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National Service - ‘Caving’
London four-piece National Service have been creating urgent, considered alternative music wrought with emotion, expansive guitars and brooding basslines for a few years now, attracting much attention along the way. BBC 6Music’s Steve Lamacq and Radio X’s John Kennedy have repeatedly sung their praises, as well as countless tastemaker blogs. And support slots for Man of Moon, Broken Records, Kill A King, Easy Kill, Giant Party, amongst many others, plus a showcase gig at The Great Escape, and being shortlisted for Green Man Festival's ‘Green Man Rising Competition’ in 2019 have all secured the band’s reputation as a dazzling live act too. It was only a matter of time before they struck a deal with Fierce Panda who they’re currently releasing music through.
Despite this deserved recognition, it still boils down to one thing for the National Service chaps - the drive to make music, as frontman and guitarist Fintan explains “I’m sure the boys will all agree with me in that, we’d say our biggest successes have been the music itself. We’re very proud of every track we’ve put out and the success is in writing, recording and playing music that we think is good. Every time we write or record or play we try to make it the best thing we’ve ever done.”
Onto the topic of our Spotlight selection ‘Caving’, a driving intense number, Fintan sheds some light on how it came about: “Sometimes when you write a song it can take months of chiselling away to get to the core idea and then months more rebuilding it back up and tweaking it until it’s just right. It’s a total labour of love and by the end of it, you’ve been through countless iterations of what the song could be...but ‘Caving’ wasn’t like that at all. It was very immediate and I think that comes across in the urgency and aggression of the instrumentation but also in the narrative of the lyric. It was a song borne of a strong idea that came up at the right time for us. Lyrically I think it speaks for itself in the chorus line: ‘Maybe I should cut myself some slack’. I’m a very determined and focused person but unfortunately that means I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best at everything. As I’ve got a bit older I’ve just started to realise that life’s not a race and sometimes you need to just need to let things lie - that’s what this song’s about for me.”
Currently busy recording their debut album, which the band hope to complete by summer, they still have something new to spark excitement! They recently unveiled their cover of The Twilight Sad’s ‘Last January’ as part of Fierce Panda’s 25th Birthday celebrations, so head on over to their social media to take a listen.
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How can I get featured on the Spotlight blog?
Our Spotlight blog is compiled every month from fresh new music submitted to us by our members. We want to hear from you!
We select 5 of the best tracks from our members to champion on Spotlight. As well as being featured on our new music blog, your track will also be played on our monthly Reform Radio show, get a free release package from CD Baby, plus the 5 tracks are also forwarded onto a select bunch of music industry professionals...including folks from Big Life Management, Club Fandango, Decca Records, Memphis Industries, Rocksound, DIY Magazine, Transgressive Records and The Great Escape. Find out more about Spotlight here.
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Unsigned and emerging bands and artists can submit their tracks to Spotlight new music blog